Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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Corn Dogs and Capri Suns, or, Emotions Following a Traumatic Birth

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I want to admit that I have been really struggling of late. It may be shallow or foolish for me to feel this way, given how good Donna and Kalani are doing... but mentally and emotionally, it has been really tough on me.

We had these months of worry of whether they would even survive or not. Listening to the doctors say again and again about how her condition was "life threatening", and us looking at the mortality rates for moms with placenta accreta. All of the side effects that could come from a surgery that would remove her uterus and part of her bladder - pain, diminished quality of life, forced menopause, and on and on. Donna making me promise this or that in case she didn't survive... up to and including her demanding that I promise to perform an emergency c section in the event that she had a serious bleed (as it had been spelled out to us that she would almost certainly not survive long enough for us to get her to the hospital). There are youtube videos, she told me, instructing me that I had to hurry, that there would be nothing I could do for her, but that I could not let the baby die. I was to take my pocket knife, cut down from the belly button, only cut through the thick white layer so as to not hurt the baby, pull the baby out, dry it, wrap in a new towel to avoid hypothermia from a wet towel, not cut the cord, and immediately drive to the hospital with Donna's lifeless body to keep me company. Yes, this happened, and yes, I had to promise... and I replayed this over and over in my head for days leading up to the delivery.

I worried how Kalani would do when she was born. Would she need to go on a ventilator? Would she do well? Would there be complications? After all, Donna had somehow missed the fact that placenta accreta babies have a dramatically higher mortality rate than normal babies (26% of them do not survive); with all she was worrying about, I could not burden Donna with that worry, too. So I carried the weight of that knowledge along with everything else piled up on me.

The day came, and everyone did as well as we could have hoped for, with a possible exception of them forgetting to come back to get me to escort Kalani to the NICU when she was born, causing me to worry that something had gone wrong. But still... life since the delivery has been so hard. The other kids miss their mother. I am torn... the other kids need me, but so does Donna. And yes, I do want to see and hold my new baby!

Donna has struggled; she has suffered so much physical pain, as well as complete exhaustion... to say nothing of the mental and emotional fallout of the events. I have tried to be there for her, but as with so much else in this situation, I am largely helpless to do anything.

Then, I leave the hospital, go home, and I never sit down. There are six kids to feed, to bathe, to hug. Six kids starving for parental attention. There are chores to do - if you don't complete at least one full load of laundry per day in our big household, it will BURY you. There are the never ending dishes, the picking up to do, the sweeping and mopping, the trash to take out, the litter box to be changed. All the while, I am trying to stay caught up with my second job (web development). It's that time of year again, so I am coaching little league. And I'm doing all of this after a full day of work, trying to fit in visits to the hospital. Bedtime comes, and I crash... there is no down time, no me time right now.

the other six kids at home
These six still need love and attention, too!

And I have been a little resentful, I confess. There are people in my life right now that know full well of everything that is going on with me, that still seem bound and determined to shovel grief on top of me regarding such inconsequential, ticky tack subjects. To those people... could they not just give me a little break for a bit? Could they not argue and stir up trouble for just a little while? I have enough to carry right now. I'm not asking for your help, but if you could stop adding to the load, I would truly appreciate it.

If it were not for my incredible in laws, I don't know how we would have made it. My mother in law sits with the kids every day, and does her best to keep things held together in the house. My father in law shuttles her back and forth, brings food to Donna in the hospital, helps take her to appointments so I don't have to take as much time off of work. We hold the house together as best we can, though make no mistake - we absolutely are not Donna Suddeth, Supermom.

This past weekend, I brought Donna home to rest, as she was at her physical limit. I throttled back just a bit, and found myself curiously struggling even more. Suddenly, with the absence of the next task that had to be immediately handled dominating all of my waking time, my mind was left to probe some of this emotional fallout, and I found myself in actual tears more than once. I've bottled these feelings up, set this all aside, focused on what has to be done... but those emotions apparently do not just evaporate.

We did experience one big bright spot, however. For weeks now, we have received many kind words from friends, family, internet acquaintances, and so forth. So many people have sent us good wishes, told us they are praying for us, offered to help in whatever ways they can.

Please forgive me, but I will confess that have grown jaded and cynical over the years. Sure, it's nice to know that people care, but talk is very, very cheap. Let's be very real - most of the time, when someone says "Let me know if I can do anything for you," they mean "Gee, I'm sorry that things are bad for you. Bye now!"

There are exceptions, of course. As I mentioned, my in laws are saints. Donna's friend, Jessica, has proven to be as much a member of our family as any blood relative; she has fed Donna and I in the hospital several times, she has visited more than anyone else, she brought Chick Fil A trays to the kids, she picked Silas and Jonah up to give them some time away to play, she has followed along and offered support again and again and again. My mother helped us to stockpile groceries for the event, has been a great outlet for me to vent to.

But by and large, what most people give are platitudes. Nice words, very kind, but again... talk is cheap.

This weekend, Donna talked to me about the offers that people have been making. She wondered if it would be wrong of her to mention these offers on Facebook, along with a list of some necessities we have gotten short on; while yes, it is expensive for her to be in the hospital, the fact is that it is difficult for me to get to the grocery store right now, too, what with everything going on. I told her to go for it; if people honestly did want to help, it would give them something actionable to do. So she composed a short Facebook status containing a few grocery items that it would be nice to have restocked, and I figured that would be that.

I have been floored by the response.

On Sunday and Monday, we had four separate grocery deliveries. There would have been a fifth one, but that person heard about our other deliveries and decided to wait a bit so as to make her efforts count more at a needed time. The short list that Donna posted has been provided several times over, with appreciated extras thrown in. And these were not small donations, either; these were all multiple grocery bags per person, even though most of these people aren't even individuals I would classify as close friends or family... heck, one is a person neither Donna nor I has EVER met! My fridge and freezer are full, and I cannot express my gratitude fully enough. I am so very touched by this kindness.

We've never been the sort of people to ask for help; we are the people that try to provide the help. To have people - even nigh strangers - reach out to us in a time of need is so very humbling, and so very appreciated.

It's funny how corn dogs and Capri Suns can help lighten an emotional load.

Tags for this post: Family Life


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